A major restructuring proposed by NorthTec is not a "slash and burn" exercise but is about ensuring the polytechnic's future, the chief executive says.

The proposal, sent to staff last Friday, includes axing courses in visual arts, sport and recreation, tourism, business administration, computing and foundation studies. It also means the equivalent of 36 jobs will be cut.

Meanwhile the campuses in Rawene - which currently has seven staff and 29 students, and Kerikeri - which currently has seven staff and 67 students, would be rested.
It has left students on those courses feeling uncertain about their future.

NorthTec chief-executive Mark Ewen said the proposal was not a reflection on staff.

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"This is not a slash and burn exercise this is about providing a foundation for us.

"The staff that we're talking about are really good people and they're really passionate about what they do.

"But the issue is we've got 29 students and 7 staff [at Rawene] at the moment and we just can't afford to do it. And if we keep doing that in about two or three years time the organisation is gone," he said.

In a document sent to staff called The Case for Change, NorthTec said it was supposed to make a 3 per cent surplus each year but instead it expected to make a $4.5 million loss this year.

It also said NorthTec had 46 more academic staff members than the average for regional polytechnics.

NorthTec is taking submissions on the proposal until November 27 and is due to make a final decision on December 6

Mr Ewen, who has been in the chief executive position at NorthTec since May and who previously worked as NorthTec's director, trades and primary industries, said there were a combination of factors which led to this proposal.

"Too many programmes at too many locations. There's also been funding issues, the way some of those programmes have been funded. And also the changing demographics, the changing employment market."

When asked if these issues could have been addressed earlier to avoid this proposed major restructure, Mr Ewen said it was difficult to say.

Students of the Sport and Recreation course, which has been available at NorthTec since 1995, were feeling hopeless.

The students, some who are studying the level five certificate and others who are on the level six diploma, all signed up to the course with the intention of completing Auckland University of Technology's Bachelor of Sport and Recreation which is delivered by NorthTec.

"Some of us have six plus assignments due, families and jobs and we're trying to focus and finish this year out, the timing is a major issue," said Marcia Aperahama, a diploma student.

Mr Ewen said if there was a "viable cohort" to deliver the bachelor's degree to at NorthTec, it would consider offering that. But these were the issues being looked at during the "genuine" consultation process.

Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, said he was aware of NorthTec's proposal to its staff and understood it would be unsettling for staff and students.

"Tertiary education providers are autonomous institutions. I expect them to work hard to ensure they are providing a quality education to meet the needs and demands of their community. A key part of this is planning for future sustainability," he said.

Mr Ewen, who has been visiting staff and students this week, said asking the Government for short-term funding was not an option.

"We can't really go to them give us a bail out and say we'll be back this time next year for another one.

"We've got to get ourselves in a position where we are viable and sustainable going forward but we've also got to prove our worth in what we do and that is in really changing our region and to be able to do that we've got to get more people starting at higher level."